Radio Prague's reporters share their strongest culinary experiences in Czech Republic

Smazeny syr

Welcome to the ABC of Czech in which we look at words and expressions to do with Czech food and cuisine. For a different perspective I asked three of my foreign-born colleagues to tell us about their favourite Czech dishes or strongest culinary experiences in this country.

I first put that question to Radio Prague's Rob Cameron.

"I don't actually eat much Czech food because I want to live beyond forty. But, say, my favourite dish, or perhaps the dish which is most unusual for us foreigners here is the so-called smažák or smažený sýr which, as you well know, translates as fried cheese. It was the very, very first Czech dish I had - and I had it within about half an hour of arrival at Florenc bus station in August 1992 at a little restaurant called Deminka, which is now a very posh Italian restaurant but wasn't then. I was presented with a plate of something square and deep-fried in bread crumbs, served with chips, or French fries, and a big dollop of tartar sauce. And it was possibly one of the most amazing culinary experiences I've ever had in my life."

Radio Prague's Jan Velinger was born in Canada. But as his parents are Czech, Jan was well-familiar with Czech cuisine when he first arrived in this country.

"My mum made Czech food quite often and one my favourites and one of those things we didn't have too often was bramborák - the Czech potato pancake. That was kind of a treat when we could have that. But we didn't have it too often because of all the work it took to actually grind all the potatoes down in the blender. To this day I love bramborák, when you put the garlic in and the smell of it on the frying pan, but unfortunately, it's something I'm absolutely forbidden by my doctor to eat. So I don't eat bramborák anymore but actually when I first came to the Czech Republic in 1993, back then I still ate it and I used to buy bramborák in some of the most horrible places like Smíchovské nádraží, which is the train station in Smichov, out of this little window coming out of the side, from God knows where, under God knows what kind of hygienic conditions. So I would never eat anything like that again!"

And finally I spoke to Brian Kenety, who is originally from the United States.

"I have to say that the worst meal I ever had was in neighbouring Slovakia, and that was pasta with Granko (something like Nestle Quick) sprinkled on top. So by comparison, I think, the Czechs are doing alright. I remember in 1995 when I first came, probably every third meal was smažený sýr or fried cheese, with tartar sauce, French fries on the side, you know, very good for the heart - makes it work harder. Sounds disgusting, tastes great. But I remember being very depressed with the onset of winter and the disappearance of all vegetables from the shelves in the groceries. And it seemed that everywhere there were green tablecloths - issued for free by the Staropramen brewery - and brown food. Pork chops or some other kind of meat, potatoes, sauerkraut. Green table cloths, brown food. It was only later when I learned the truism: Czechs only cook for themselves. And discovered that Czechs do know how to cook - at home, not in the restaurants."

Many thanks to Brian Kenety, Jan Velinger and Rob Cameron for sharing their culinary experiences with us. Till next time - dobrou chuť or bon appetit!